A few weeks ago, Kate Nash announced the arrival of her latest song ‘Underestimate The Girl; a fearsome, in-your-face track that showcased a previously unexplored side to Nash’s persona and divided fans and critics alike. Gone was the Made Of Bricks girl next door and all its piano-led love ditties. Absent too was the girl group sheen of follow-up My Best Friend Is You. In their place was the new Kate Nash, reborn as Riot Grrrl circa 1992, complete with impassioned screams and layer upon layer of frenetic distortion. While not an entirely surprising turnaround (Nash has previously cited the Riot Grrrl, grunge and C86 movements as musical inspiration), the move does represent a considerable gamble for the artist.
True to her quirky pop princess reputation, Kate Nash breezes onto the Dolans Warehouse stage wearing a pair of cat ears and what can only be described as an old net curtain. Joining her black-clad all-female girl band, she launches straight into new material, stopping only briefly to tear strips off a hapless teenager who attempted to give her a condom: “that was really rude, shoving a fucking condom in my face when I’m tryin’a play a gig? What the fuck is that?”
It’s painfully clear that this new Nash comes with all guns blazing. She is peeved by “shit friends”, sexism, racism and homophobia and isn’t afraid to shout and scream about every single thing she hates. For her honesty and uncompromising nature, Nash has to be applauded but the abrasive songs do tend to mesh together somewhat, only the more punk-influenced tracks rising above the tedium to become distinguishable. While her vocals remain strong and clear, it does appear that she hasn’t yet got what it takes to pull off such risky business.
Eventually, they do play ‘Foundations’, although an admittedly more amped-up version than the radio edit. To the disdain of both Nash and her girl gang, you sense that this was really what the crowd had turned up for. Never-the-less, there were cries of “one more tune” to be heard once the band walk off stage, and the singer obliges with the achingly beautiful ‘Lullaby for an Insomniac’, an a capella performance that displayed her stunning vocal range more perfectly than any of the uncompromising, punky assaults that had come before.
While it’s too early to agree with critics calling Nash’s new direction ‘career suicide’, it’s clear that her latest releases and forthcoming album will only appeal to a very specific demographic. Whether that demographic will be enough to keep Nash afloat remains to be seen.
Photos of Kate Nash from Whelan’s by Stuart Comerford. [nggallery id=611]